University of Guadalajara: Almost a century in the environmental defense of Jalisco

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Eduardo Santana Castellón and Juan Nepote González, Museum of Environmental Sciences and Department of Ecology and Natural Resources, University Center of the South Coast, University of Guadalajara. Contact: [email protected], [email protected] 

The history of environmental defense is the result of collective wills, decisions and actions that receive key impulses from individuals who accompany various movements or institutions. Examples of this are the Brazilian Chico Méndez and the National Council of Rubber Pickers, the Norwegian Gro Harlem Brundtland and the World Commission on Environment and Development, the Honduran Berta Cáceres and the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras or the Swede Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for the Future movement, among others. In the case of Mexico, Miguel Ángel de Quevedo from Jalisco stands out in the institutional sphere with the National Park System, and in Jalisco José Guadalupe Zuno and the University of Guadalajara (UdeG) stand out, whose re-founding in 1925 he promoted when he was governor of the State. 

ZUNO PIONEER IN JALISCO IN THE CONSERVATION OF NATURE: LEADER IN SAVING THE FOREST LA PRIMAVERA AND LAKE CHAPALA

A PIONEER IN THE CONSERVATION OF NATURE

Zuno established, with his pen and his actions, a commitment to the protection of nature that continues today. In alliance with important institutions, such as the Benemérita Society of Geography and Statistics of the State of Jalisco, it achieved that today the people of Jalisco have Lake Chapala, by preventing a government project from draining a large part of the Lake, as well as urban green areas from Agua Azul Park, Los Colomos Forest and El Centinela Forest. During the sixties and seventies of the last century, he proposed the protection of La Primavera Forest, an effort that culminated 10 days before his death, when on March 6, 1980 that Forest was declared a Forest Protection Zone and Wildlife Refuge. These actions allowed a university continuity related to the Forest even today uninterrupted,

But the role in the environmental defense of this university is much broader. UdeG’s work has focused on: training scientists and technicians in environmental sciences and environmental education; carry out descriptive basic research on nature and its processes; pro-actively promote the creation of protected natural spaces; prepare draft regulations, decrees and laws that protect nature; document, based on scientific research, the environmental and social damage caused by various government and private projects and recommend how to avoid or reduce them; inform public opinion and government officials about environmental processes through the preparation of technical reports, expert opinions, displayed in newspapers and radio and television programs, in addition to supporting social initiatives and mobilizations in favor of the environment. It has not taken legal action in defense of the environment and human rights.

The environmental actions of the University began with the Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory, and the subsequent creation, around 1939, of chairs on public health associated with the Civil Hospital, which had already started an urban Botanical Garden for medicinal purposes a century earlier. In the 1940s the Institute of Geography and the Institute of Chemical-Agricultural Research were founded. In 1950 the Institute of Botany was created at the university and, almost at the same time, the Botanical Society of Jalisco was born from civil society, and later, the Society of Natural Sciences of Jalisco. These three institutions were promoted by doctors, engineers and professors from different social fields, including the university. In 1970 the activities of the Institute of Wood, Cellulose and Paper began, increasing the international recognition of the University. These institutes and groups promoted expeditions and initiated biological and ecological protection and research activism.

DICSA BEGINS THE INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH: IN ONE DECADE 27 RESEARCH INSTITUTES ARE CREATED AND GOING FROM THREE TO ONE HUNDRED ACADEMIC AGREEMENTS 

DICSA: ENGINE FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ON THE ENVIRONMENT 

But it was until the creation of the Department of Scientific Research and Academic Improvement (DICSA), in 1983, that the University initiated a comprehensive institutional policy for the promotion and development of scientific research and its internationalization. A novelty for the country was the creation of research institutes committed to solving socio-environmental problems in specific territories. After establishing the Las Joyas Scientific Station in the Sierra de Manantlán in 1984, DICSA created the Las Joyas Natural Laboratory in 1985, and in 1989 launched the Center for Coastal Ecology, a group that since 1983 has been working on the conservation of sea turtles. He also created the Institute of Limnology associated with Lake Chapala. In 1990, Distinguished professors from UdeG and ITESO form the Jalisco Academy of Human Rights, which signs an agreement with the UdG, and is supported by the Las Joyas Natural Laboratory in denouncing the abuses of human and environmental rights caused by the Peña Colorada Mine to the Ejido Ayotitlán in the Sierra de Manantlán. In 1991, he promoted the Bosque La Primavera Laboratory and in 1994 the Center for Gender Studies, and the Indigenous Communities Support Unit. The latter attending to problems associated with environmental injustice and human rights of the Wixárika and Nahuas peoples of Jalisco. DICSA acquired its own leadership in environmental matters by serving as regional coordination of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). and it is supported by the Las Joyas Natural Laboratory in denouncing the abuses of human and environmental rights caused by the Peña Colorada Mine to the Ayotitlán Ejido in the Sierra de Manantlán. In 1991, he promoted the Bosque La Primavera Laboratory and in 1994 the Center for Gender Studies, and the Indigenous Communities Support Unit. The latter attending to problems associated with environmental injustice and human rights of the Wixárika and Nahuas peoples of Jalisco. DICSA acquired its own leadership in environmental matters by serving as regional coordination of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). and it is supported by the Las Joyas Natural Laboratory in denouncing the abuses of human and environmental rights caused by the Peña Colorada Mine to the Ayotitlán Ejido in the Sierra de Manantlán. In 1991, he promoted the Bosque La Primavera Laboratory and in 1994 the Center for Gender Studies, and the Indigenous Communities Support Unit. The latter attending to problems associated with environmental injustice and human rights of the Wixárika and Nahuas peoples of Jalisco. DICSA acquired its own leadership in environmental matters by serving as regional coordination of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). promotes the Bosque La Primavera Laboratory and in 1994 the Center for Gender Studies, and the Indigenous Communities Support Unit. The latter attending to problems associated with environmental injustice and human rights of the Wixárika and Nahuas peoples of Jalisco. DICSA acquired its own leadership in environmental matters by serving as regional coordination of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). promotes the Bosque La Primavera Laboratory and in 1994 the Center for Gender Studies, and the Indigenous Communities Support Unit. The latter attending to problems associated with environmental injustice and human rights of the Wixárika and Nahuas peoples of Jalisco. DICSA acquired its own leadership in environmental matters by serving as regional coordination of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This university department represented a historical-institutional watershed: in the short span of a decade (1983-1993), the number of researchers at UdeG grew from approximately 15 to 500; 27 new research units were formed, including those already mentioned related to environmental sciences, and international agreements with universities were increased, from 3 agreements in 3 countries to 101 agreements in 23 countries in 1993, and currently increasing to more than 669 agreements in 52 countries.

MORE THAN HALF A HUNDRED DEPARTMENTS SUPPORT THE ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES OF THOUSANDS OF GRADUATE, UNDERGRADUATE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WHO GRADE EACH YEAR

TRAINING THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES 

After the 1994 University Reform, the General Coordination of Ecology and Environmental Education, and the Sustainable University Program were created in different periods, which promoted actions related to urban green areas, solid waste management, efficient use of water and energy, the reduction of pollutants and citizen action, among other activities. The Comprehensive Energy Transition Program stands out, which included the creation of a fleet of electric cars and the establishment of a solar garden at the University Center of Tonalá. Currently the thematic and regional centers of the University Network support more than 65 departments that implement research projects and environmental protection, associated with a score of educational programs that annually certify more than a thousand students in environmental programs. Thousands of students participate in its Higher Secondary Education System (SEMS) in courses, workshops and specialized careers of the Technological and General Skills Baccalaureate.

The UdeG has also played an important historical role in socio-environmental struggles that are framed in social conflicts, since sometimes environmental conservation can be opposed to economic interests that seek a change in land use for commercial or productive purposes, or that propose to use natural resources, or dumping waste and pollutants, without considering the ecological, socioeconomic and health costs and damages. The box lists more than a hundred actions, investigations and struggles that are a palpable example of the UdeG’s commitment in the defense of environmental rights and human rights related to nature. These actions in marine, coastal, montane, wooded and urban landscapes have affected thousands of square kilometers of Jalisco and national territory,

THE CONSERVATION OF NATURE GENERATES SCIENTIFIC-TECHNICAL, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, POLITICAL AND CULTURAL BATTLEFIELDS: THE UNIVERSITY FUNCTION HAS BEEN AS AN ENVIRONMENTAL OMBUDSPERSON

THE UNIVERSITY: ENVIRONMENTAL OMBUDSMAN IN SPACES OF SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL CONFLICTS

Nature conservation is inherently socially conflictive. It is not easy to achieve a balance between individual rights to the usufruct of private property, and human and communal rights for a healthy environment that provides environmental services. Large economic interests, for example, those associated with the construction of real estate developments, large hydraulic infrastructure works, polluting industries, or mining, create distortions in public debates that confuse citizens and even confront university students themselves.. Some university students have suffered threats to their physical integrity for opposing powerful economic interests, often in contexts of social injustice.

But there are also criticisms. Some researchers, both from public and private universities, have succumbed to economic pressure or temptations to justify projects that cause environmental degradation. Sometimes they hold a conservationist scientific discourse as professors, but they charge in private consultancies that justify projects that clearly cause social and environmental damage such as the destruction of mangroves, the construction of dams, urban expansion over wild areas, or litigation that weakens the decrees of environmental protection. Some sectors of society affected by the analyzes prepared by agencies or individuals of the University accuse the institution of having “hired environmental gunmen” who attack government or private initiatives to establish better conditions to negotiate with the government increases in the always limited university budget. It is unfairly asserted that civil society or the academic sector oppose mega-infrastructure projects, but they do not offer alternatives. However, these actors do not have the funding or the responsibility to design these large projects.

Universities must contribute ideas and criticize those projects that have been poorly developed in both the technical and financial sense, and whose social consultation process was also deficient. The fact that the University forces debates that expose ethically reasoned and technically supported arguments to the public light, has been positive for the public analysis of the state’s socio-environmental problems; and has contributed to the construction of a more informed and more democratic Jalisco society. Proof of this is that the University and more than fifty of its professors have received international, national and local community recognition for the quality and commitment of their work.  

In a certain way, the University has served as a kind of environmental ombudsperson in defense of sectors that lack voice and power, but are affected by actions with a socio-environmental impact by governments and the private sector. We are living in unprecedented times due to the complexity and magnitude of the socio-environmental challenges whose approach also constitutes one of the main ethical and scientific problems of our times. Without the action of the University and the university students, the deterioration and environmental poverty of Jalisco would be greater than the current ones. But the University must do more, and strive to be an example of good practices and achieve greater relevance and relevance in solving socio-environmental problems.

Reforestation of urban green areas. SPECIAL / University of Guadalajara
Manantlán Biosphere Reserve. SPECIAL / University of Guadalajara
Tortuguero camp. SPECIAL / University of Guadalajara
Forest of the Spring. SPECIAL / University of Guadalajara

SOCIO-ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIONS AND STRUGGLES WITH UNIVERSITY PARTICIPATION

FROM THE COASTS TO THE CUMBRES, AND FROM THE CITY TO THE COUNTRYSIDE, THE UNIVERSITY CONTRIBUTES TO FORGING THE LANDSCAPES OF JALISCO  

COASTAL AND OCEAN LANDSCAPES

Protection of nesting beaches for sea turtles; Participation in the final design of the decree for the creation of the largest national park on the continent around the Revillagigedo archipelago; Conservation of coastal wetlands and mangroves such as El Salado, Boca de Tomates, Laguna del Tule, Xola-Paraman, Chorro, Majahuas, La Manzanilla, Chalacatepec, El Ermitaño, among others, through protection decrees, ecological zoning plans and site declarations RAMSAR; Coral reef protection and creation of artificial reefs; Development of sustainable management plans for coastal zones and fisheries; Design and implementation of conservation and restoration programs for the Marietas Islands and its reefs; Reproduction and conservation programs for species such as crocodiles; Support for the development of fishing cooperatives.
MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPES

Fight against the destruction of forests in the Sierra de Manantlán by loggers, miners and ranchers; Proposal for the Sierra El Cuale Hydrological Protection Area; Defense of natural relics such as the Talpa maple forest and the wild and cultural areas of San Sebastián del Oeste; Generation of scientific support to manage the Nevado de Colima National Park and increase the protected area of ​​mountain mesophilic forest; Defense of areas with high biodiversity value and sacred sites in the territories of the Wixárika and Nahuas indigenous peoples in Jalisco; Design and implementation of comprehensive rural development projects, projects to improve agricultural and forestry production, payment schemes for environmental services, and conservation of biodiversity in forests under use to reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions; Preparation of management plans for protected areas and fire management.
URBAN LANDSCAPE

Creation of the first urban planning degrees and postgraduate degrees that incorporate elements of social justice; Comprehensive Energy Transition University Program; Creation of the Committee and Institute for the analysis of the integral management of Water and Energy; Proposals and programs to make urban transport more efficient, promote non-motorized mobility and provide an integral solution to the mobility problem including the gender perspective; Proposals for the construction of sustainable buildings; Generation of alternatives for the conservation, use, collection and supply of water to metropolitan areas; Generation of alternatives for the treatment of sewage and wastewater; Promotion of effective management and recycling schemes for solid waste; Conservation of urban forests, green areas and public spaces; Diagnosis of the problem of air pollution and public health in urban areas and especially in Colonia Miravalle; Creation of peri-urban protected natural areas; Protection of the El Bajío aquifer recharge zone; Resistance to the urbanization of Los Colomos Forest, Metropolitan Park, Cerro del Cuatro and El Mirador Park due to sports, cultural or commercial developments; Establishment and defense of peri-urban protected forested areas such as La Primavera Forest, El Nixtiqüil and El Disparate against the expansion of subdivisions and development of geothermal energy; Protection and promotion of trees in green corridors in wooded ridges; Diagnostics of metropolitan sustainability in the Prosperous Cities program of UN-HABITAT;
CONTRIBUTIONS AT THE JALISCO AND MEXICO LEVEL

Elaboration of diagnoses Jalisco on time and Jalisco on Future; Preparation of the Territorial Ecological Ordinance of the State of Jalisco, various metropolitan and municipal Risk Atlases, manifestations of Environmental Impact, as well as various Urban Regulations; Contribution to the elaboration of the Strategy for the Conservation and Use of the Biodiversity of Jalisco and the Study of the state of the Biodiversity in Jalisco; Design of innovative inter-municipal governance schemes such as the inter-municipal environmental boards, the Inter-municipal Solid Waste Systems and the OPD Bosque La Primavera; Design of new state and municipal agencies such as the State Ecology Commission, SEMADES and SEMADET; Creation of educational and debate platforms such as the forum “FIL is also Science” with Conacyt, the Forum on Culture and Nature, the International Colloquium on Biodiversity, Natural Resources and Society, the Award for Environmental Journalism, the International Colloquium on Scientific Culture, the Water Chair and the Enrique Beltrán Chair in Conservation, Sustainable Development and Biodiversity; Design and construction of the Museum of Environmental Sciences; Contributions to CONABIO to prepare the “Priority Conservation Regions of Mexico”, the “Country Study on the Natural Capital of Mexico” and “One Hundred Cases of Success on the Natural Heritage of Mexico”; Participation in platforms that define national and international public policies (National Council of Protected Natural Areas, North American Bird Conservation Initiative NABCI, IUCN, MAB-UNESCO, COP); Drafting of different standards,

Source: informador.mx

The Guadalajara Post

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